'Did Anyone Really Die?' Oppn Attacks Centre After Amit Shah Claims 250 Deaths in IAF Strikes
Last week, 21 parties of the opposition had put out a statement accusing the BJP government of 'blatant politicisation of the sacrifice' and criticised Modi for not having had 'convened an all-party meeting as per the established practice in our democracy'.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi at a rally (PTI Photo)
Over the past week, the opposition has changed gears by not just sticking to their earlier criticism of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre for politicising the IAF’s strikes in Pakistan, but also questioning the claim that “over 250 terrorists” were killed in Balakot.
Last week, 21 parties of the opposition had put out a statement accusing the BJP government of "blatant politicisation of the sacrifice" and criticised Modi for not having had “convened an all-party meeting as per the established practice in our democracy".
But, while the government is yet to give an official count of terrorists killed during the strikes, BJP president declared at an election rally in Gujarat that “more than 250” terrorists killed in that operation – making him the first BJP leader to put an actual figure on record.
"After Uri, our forces went into Pakistan and carried out surgical strikes. They avenged the death of our soldiers. After Pulwama, everyone thought there could be no surgical strikes, what will happen? But under (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi's leadership, the government carried out an air strike on the 12th day and killed more than 250 terrorists," Amit Shah said in Gujarati, at a public gathering in Ahmedabad. He also said that only the US and Israel had ‘avenged’ attacks on their armed forces in a similar fashion.
This was soon after union minister SS Ahluwalia had pointed out that neither Modi, nor Amit Shah or any spokesperson had officially stated a figure for casualties and blamed the Indian media and social media for circulating unconfirmed reports.
So far, only Mamata Banerjee had questioned the narrative of over 200 deaths and on February 28, she had said, “How many terrorists were neutralised in the air strikes? Has anybody been neutralised at all. I have read foreign press coverage which say that not much damage was done. I am in complete solidarity with the armed forces. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t know the truth.”
Banerjee, sources added, had argued that this political line – of criticising the BJP at every step – is the one that the opposition should take, but others were less sure. A senior Congress leader explained, “There was a trepidation that it could be seen as disrespectful of the armed forces.”
Shah’s comments, soon after BJP MP Manoj Tiwary donning an armed forces uniform during an election campaign, were the trigger that the opposition needed.
On Monday, the opposition attacked the BJP based on Shah’s claims, which they claimed was in discordance with what the IAF and MEA had said while reaffirming their faith in the armed forces.
Former union minister and Congress leader P Chidambaram pointed out that Congress president Rahul Gandhi was the “first to congratulate” the IAF and said, “The Indian Air Force’s Vice Marshall has refused to comment on the exact casualties. The MEA statement has not spoken of the armed forces and the deaths. So where does the 300-350 death figure come from.”
The BJP has accused the opposition of playing into the “enemy’s hands” by asking questions, but Chidambaram countered, saying, “As a proud citizen, I am willing to trust my government. But if the government wants that the world also trusts it, then instead of criticising the opposition, it should work towards it.”
TMC MP and spokesperson Derek O’ Brien tweeted, “Whodunit ? Half a dozen Delhi TV channels obligingly carried (SEE SCREEN SHOTS) ‘exaggerated’ numbers of casualties inflicted hours after the air strike. So one must ask: which top mantri in the Modi govt deliberately fed #FakeNews ? IAF have always been consistent: No Number. (SIC)”
He also attacked BJP leader Manoj Tewari and said, “Shameless. Shameless. Shameless. Manoj Tewari BJP MP and Delhi President wearing Armed Forces uniform and seeking votes. BJP-Modi-Shah insulting and politicising our jawans. And then giving lectures on patriotism. Low life.”
Meanwhile, Delhi CM and AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal, added, “Even the army is saying this. But Amit Shah is saying that the army is lying, that 250 died. Amit Shah claims that the army is lying. The country will not tolerate this…The army can't lie. The army can lie. The entire country is with them, but the BJP is against the armed forces. (SIC)"
Congress leader Sanjay Jha summarised on Twitter, “300 terrorists killed says #BJP! Amit Shah suddenly reduces that to 250. SS Ahluwalia says none. Officials say: No estimate. Why is #Modi once again playing repugnant politics with India’s defence forces? Why? The opposition is deeply disturbed by this obfuscation. (SIC)”
Further, CPM politburo member Nilotpal Basu wrote on Facebook, “Shakespeare wrote, ‘Sound and fury, signifying nothing’: Balakote turns out to be a pathetic parody! (SIC)”
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